If you have any problem, worry or question about SparkChess, first of all be sure that we'll be doing everything humanly possible to assist you.
We've compiled your most frequent questions on this page. Simply click on a headline to expand the section and the question.
If your question is not included here, please contact us and we'll do our best to respond within one business day.
- Download SparkChess again (if you bought it from our site paying via Paypal)
- Upgrade from an older version to SparkChess 6
- Multiplayer password recovery
- Multiplayer service status
Frequent Questions and Answers
General chess-related questions
The enemy pawn advanced to the last row and then a second black queen appeared - Why?
That is a Promotion; a pawn will be promoted to queen (or other piece) if it reaches the last rank. Please consult the official chess rules for details.
I just moved my pawn two squares and then it disappeared!
Most likely you were the victim of an en-passant take. Don't feel too bad, many casual players don't know about it. Please consult the official chess rules for details.
Why can't I castle? How do I castle?
To castle, you move the king to the desired position - if castling is available; the rook will be moved automatically. Castling is not possible if the king or the rook has moved; or if the king is in check; or if one of the squares the king must travel is controlled by an enemy piece. According to the official FIDE rules, you can castle if the king was in check previously.
Your chess engine is too hard! Help!
Try playing on Beginner (Cody). If you download the Full Version, you have access to some help tools that will help you make better moves.
Your chess engine is too easy! Is that the best you can do?
Congratulations! You must be an advanced player; most likey you've played in tournaments. Our Chess AI was created to be fun, not brutally strong. If you are an advanced player, you can still enjoy SparkChess' multiplayer or by using its Board Editor and the PGN/Replay features.
Playing chess online
I see both SparkChess and flashCHESS mentioned. What's the difference between them?
They are the same product. When we created the first game engine in 2002, we called it flashCHESS. Later, in 2008 the third generation of the engine, rewritten from scatch in AS3 took the web by storm and we wanted to keep the name due to its heritage, naming it flashCHESS III. Later, to prevent any complaint from Adobe regarding the use of "Flash" (their trademark), we decided to rename the game as SparkChess.
SparkChess 6 is our newest release.
Is playing SparkChess online free?
Yes. Online play is free, although we display unobtrusive ads from Google. If you prefer not seeing the ads, you can download the standalone version of the game.
Why do you show ads?
The tools used to build the game are rather expensive. On top of that, there is the hosting and bandwidth that must be considered. At the time of writing, we have about 1,000,000 unique monthly visitors, consuming a total of 500 GB of bandwidth. We are using a CDN and a performance monitoring service to maintain the quality of service.
The multiplayer service is using Rackspace Cloud Servers, which also entails some monthly costs.
Downloading and installing the Full Version
I want to play the game without opening the browser, like a normal program; is that possible?
Yes. SparkChess is available as a standalone application on many platforms.
What platforms does your chess game work on?
SparkChess is available on:
I'm on Linux - is SparkChess available for me?
Linux support has proved problematic. You can get SparkChess for Google Chrome on Linux (or Chomium).
I bought the game, but I didn't receive an email or download link. What should I do?
Most likely the email sent to you was flagged as spam by your mail server or email application. Please check your Spam. If you can't find it, please contact us. We'll do our best to reply to you in 24-48 hours and will send you the game.
I downloaded the game but I can't find it. Do I need to buy it again?
No. Start by looking at your Downloads History (press CTRL+J in your browser to see the list) or look into your Downloads folder or search your computer files for "sparkchess". If you can't find it or in the event you lost all the information on your computer, please contact us. At a minimum we'll need the email address you used when purchasing but providing more details (payment method, transaction ID, receipt) will help speed up the process.
How can I upgrade to the latest version?
If you own flashCHESS III or SparkChess, you can upgrade to SparkChess 6 using this upgrade form.
How do I install it on Google Chrome?
Download the game file on your computer or check the Downloads folder (in Chrome, press CTRL+J to open the Downloads History, look for sparkchess5.crx and click on "Show in folder" link below it). Then, click the Settings icon (≡) on the Chrome browser toolbar and select Tools > Extensions. Now drag the downloaded CRX game file onto the Chrome Extensions page.
How do I install it on Android?
To install SparkChess on Android you must set your tablet to accept installations from outside Google Play. Go to Settings -> Applications and check the "Unknown Sources" option if it's not already selected. Then you may download the SparkChess APK file either on a computer or directly on the Android device and tap on it to install.
Why isn't the game listed in the Android store or the Chrome Web Store?
SparkChess is listed in Apple Appstore, Blackerry AppWorld as well as on Amazon App Store for Android and Samsung Apps. Google however has less coverage for developer countries so we cannot use it at this time for paid apps.
Multiplayer chess questions
Is the multiplayer service free?
Yes. There are no monthly fees, no subscriptions and no in-app payments.
Is there a difference regarding multiplayer between the free SparkChess and the Full Version?
Yes. Paying customers have priority access to the service and are also able to use the Chat feature. Free users can play only if the server capacity is below a certain treshold and have limitations on the number of games they can play daily. There are many other subtle differences, for example a free user account has a score cap of 10,000 points.
Is it safe for a child to play SparkChess online?
We are parents ourselves and we've taken reasonable steps to make SparkChess Muliplayer a fun and safe environment for kids. Children under 13 do not provide any personable-identifiable information and may not use the Chat feature. We believe this is the safest way to ensure that they are not exposed to inappropriate language (filtering is done for English only). We do recommend parental involvement in any online multiplayer game. If you notice offensive words being used in usernames, we encourgae you to submit them to our attention.
How do you handle abusive users and cheaters?
We do not tolerate bullying, cheating or any other abusive behavior. If you have knowledge of such actions, please report the user's nickname and their behavior.
Can SparkChess work behind firewalls?
Yes, if you can browse the web, you should be able to use the multiplayer service.
I can't connect. Help!
SparkChess Multiplayer was designed to connect through firewalls. Generally speaking, if you can browse the web, you should be able to use the service. If you can't connect and the Server Dashboard above reports that the server is up and running and if you have the free version of SparkChess, the most likely cause is that you've exceeded the maximum number of daily matches or that there are too many players connected (users of SparkChess Full have priority).
How reliable is the multiplayer service?
SparkChess Multiplayer is built using Union Platform by User1 and hosted by the leader in Cloud Servers solutions - Rackspace. In short, it doesn't get any better than this in terms of speed and network reliability. The quality of service is monitored 24/7. While we do our best to keep the whole system running smoothly, it is a "best effort" service, provided with no guarantees. Why? Because it's a free service. Rather than offering multiplayer for a select few at $5/month, we're making it available for everyone.
Over 10,000 people use the SparkChess Multiplayer service every day and less than 0.5% experience any problems, including disconnects.
I get disconnected unexpectedly, why?
Before anything else, try changing your password. If someone else connects with your username, you will get disconnected. It's possible for someone to guess your password, so use a strong password.
If you get disconnected when someone else in your location connects with a different username: Multiple connections from one IP address are supported (if your office or home is behind a NAT) but problems may arise depending on the specific network configuration - firewalls, proxies, etc. We're in constant contact with User1 (the company responsible for the multiplayer system), testing various network configurations.
Finally, SparkChess Multiplayer constantly monitors players' internet connection. If a connection is lost, even for a relatively brief period (1-2 minutes), the user is disconnected from the service. There's a fine balance that we must keep between reliability and performance. Dropped calls happen even with paid services when dealing with multibillion cell companies. At the same time, many of the SparkChess Multiplayer users like to remain connected for more than 2 days continuously. Having said that, we're constantly working to improve the quality of service.
Did my account disappear?
Free accounts may be removed if unused for prolonged periods. From time to time we purge inactive accounts. The "grace period" is dynamic and calculated based on many factors. We do want to reward active users and we need to conserve resources (storage is not free and having a few Gb of unused accounts doesn't help); we also need to backup the databases and maintain them, which require more CPU power.
Full Version users' accounts are never removed.
What are the engine technical specs?
SparkChess uses an in-house developed chess engine that uses alpha-beta pruning with principal variation, iterative deepening and aspiration window. It also uses quiescence, history heuristics and transposition tables (saved searchers and evaluations) to speed up the processing. It has an opening database with about 7000 moves.
The AI personalities use the following engine settings:
- Cody: legal moves with captures ordered first but scrambled, but virtually no insight;
- Claire: looks 3 plies ahead + quiescence;
- Boris: looks 5-6 plies ahead + quiescence, limited to 10 seconds;
- Guru: looks up to 10 plies ahead+ quiescence, limited to 3 minutes.
How long did it take to make the game?
The original version took about three months, not including the time spent studying algorithms. The game is in active development in its fourth year. We make one major release each year and a few minor releases.
What plans for improvements do you have?
We'll be listening to feedback from all players and add the features they want the most. Our goal is to make people think 'Chess is Fun!'. SparkChess has been in active development for the last 4 years, with new features being added and refined.